Teresa Fung, ScD, RD, LD/N
Professor of Nutrition, Simmons College
Investigating dietary patterns and the risk of chronic disease
As a clinical nutrition specialist at Yale-New Haven Hospital in the mid-90s, Teresa Fung developed nutritional care plans for patients suffering from chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Although she knew prescribing a proper diet helped to treat the diseases, she wasn't satisfied with that. She wanted to do more. She wanted to prevent the diseases.
Fung left Yale and headed straight for Harvard. She obtained her doctor of science in nutrition and epidemiology at that university's School of Public Health, and now serves as a tenured associate professor at the Simmons School of Health Sciences where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses and researches the effects of dietary patterns on the risk of chronic disease.
"Research keeps my critical thinking skills and creativity sharp," Fung says. "It forces me to be up-to-date and to teach up-to-date. I know my students benefit from my research, but even more importantly from their own. By designing and completing their own research, the students hone the skills they need — like investigating, developing correlations, thinking critically, problem-solving, and testing — to be good clinicians as well."
Fung's most recent research has focused on how dietary patterns affect the risk of cardiovascular disease, post-menopausal breast cancer, type 2 diabetes in women, and colorectal cancer in women. "Through our research, my colleagues and I have determined with scientific validity that a diet consisting mainly of red meat, fried foods, refined grains, and desserts can increase the risk of colon cancer in women," Fung says. "The work we do as researchers underscores the importance of dietary habits in the prevention of chronic disease. It's extremely gratifying."
At present, Fung is investigating the effects of a predominantly plant-based, minimally processed diet in preventing chronic disease.